Re-thinking this whole scud thing

Scuds are everywhere. In case you don’t know what they are, scuds are freshwater invertebrates. They look a lot like tiny shrimp. You find them on the bottoms of rivers, and where they’re prevalent, they’re an important food source. Scuds are common in many tailwater systems, and I’ve recently come to the realization that I haven’t ever fished them much. That’s been a mistake.

For example, the Housatonic River is loaded with scuds. That I haven’t ever fished a scud fly there seems foolhardy at best. I can imagine the same for the Farmington River. Although the Farmington isn’t known for scuds, a good scud fly will look alive and like something good to eat — so why wouldn’t a trout partake?

To get you started, here’s a great little scud fly from renowned Colorodo guide and new friend Pat Dorsey. It’s called the UV Scud, and you can find the recipe in this tying video. Fish on!

Breaking News: Thermal Refuge Restrictions for the Farmington

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The Farmington River is so low, and the weather so hot, that the DEEP has announced thermal refuge areas that are closed to fishing. My opening reference was to a similar decree in the summer of 2016. The difference this year is that the water coming out of the dam is significantly colder.

This would be the good news.

Rather than parrot the temporary regs, here’s a link to the DEEP site that will tell you everything you need to know. The decree goes into effect today, Saturday August 6. As always, I urge you to carry a thermometer, don’t fish if the water is above 68, stick to the upper end of the river, and fish early or late.

Weird scenes inside the white fly hatch

Just a couple of photos from the recent White Fly action to entertain you on a Friday. Enjoy the weekend and please do a rain dance!

Ugh! Why do I smell so bad? Turns out it’s not me, but rather the hundreds of dead White Fly spinner carcasses stuck in my net from the previous night’s expedition. White fly spinners have a knack for finding their way into/onto your clothing, gear, glasses, and, very regrettably, into your nose, mouth and ears. This bears repeating: White flies taste really, really bad.
Not the shot I was hoping for, but it’s interesting enough to share. This stacked image has some nice scribbly abstracts of the moon over the trees and its reflection on the water, and the white fly tracks are reminiscent of jet contrails.

Amidst the heat, the August Blizzard arrives

The Hous is low (175cfs in Falls Village) and getting dangerously warm. I’ve recently taken readings over 80 degrees in the late afternoon; 78 degrees is the threshold where smallmouth begin to stress, so if you must fish, pre-dawn to a few hours after sunrise is best, with evening/night the second choice. You should carry a thermometer and use good judgement. (The bite stinks in full sun, anyway, so you’re not missing much.)

Overall, the fishing continues to be generally poor, with the bass in numbers so small (compared to, say, 2016) it’s hard to realize it’s the same river. The fish are scattered in isolated pockets, so if you do find a bronze crew, please don’t fish it (literally) to death. I’ve been doing best with low, slow presentations and smaller (about 2″) jig hook/bead head mini-streamers in rusty crayfish colors.

The white fly hatch has started and in some areas is already winding down. I have experienced two hatches this summer that were an easy 10 out of 10, with so many flies whizzing upstream that leaving the river without eating/breathing in/wearing them was next to impossible — and spinner falls so heavy it looked like the surface of the river was paved with spent white carcasses. Ironically, these mega hatches don’t offer the best fishing; there’s so much protein in the water that it’s hard to get your fly noticed.

For now, I’m giving the bass and the river a break. I encourage you to do likewise.

This is what I’m talking about. Madness!
I’ve found the August White, swung on a team of two, to be its usual wonderful self. I use it during the emergence and the spinner fall. One night I had to cut one fly off after my second double. Wet fly hook size 8-10, white hackle fibers for the tail, white silk or thread for the body, white hen cape soft hackle.

Farmington River Report 7/26/22: Low, cold, getting going at dusk

I guided Matt and his son John yesterday afternoon from 3:15-7:15. We started off nymphing in the PTMA. Water was 115cfs, a tad low for my liking, but plenty cold! Matt went tight line and John fished under an indicator, both drop shot. The fish, however, weren’t very cooperative, so we moved to another mark. Here we found some smaller fish, smutting. Whatever they were eating, we failed to duplicate the process. We held council and decided to try our luck at the evening rise.

The mark I wanted to fish was on lockdown, so we headed to Plan B Spot which we had to ourselves. The pool was dead as Julius Caesar, but summer evenings on the Farmington being what they are, I knew it wouldn’t be long before the natives got restless. To make a long story short: we had a modest hatch. Midges, sulphurs, caddis, but mostly attenuata. Attenuata can be a very frustrating hatch to fish — the rise-to-hook-stick ratio can be maddening — but we kept at it and had a blast fooling trout. I stuck around after the session and fished until dark. I rose a good two dozen trout, but had only one partial hookset. (Sigh.) The spinner fall was not that great, and we called at dark.

We like tight lines. So, like father…
…like son. We a treat to be able to guide two enthusiastic anglers. We got to cover nymphing and dry fly basics, plus a little bit of wet fly for good measure. Excellent job, Matt and John, in some very technically difficult conditions. Dry fly tip of the week: longer leaders make for better drifts. Think a minimum of 13 feet, and you don’t need to go below 6x.

Up…down…what’s with these Farmington River flows?

It’s a fair question, and unless you’re in the know (and sometimes even if you are) it can be confusing. The current situation is that the bottom release flow was increased over the weekend…and now it’s back down. Here’s a good explanation from our friends at UpCountry: “The MDC just emailed us, the CT DEEP is providing another 25cfs from their bank of water, which means the dam release went up by another 25cfs (they were already adding an additional 25cfs to the minimum flow that MDC has been running this Summer, so now they are adding a total of 50cfs). They were releasing 96cfs (was reading 113cfs at the USGS gauge)- this morning, this increase brings the dam release up to 121cfs, and by the time it hits the Riverton gauge (about 2-2.5 miles downstream) it will read closer to 140cfs, and with about 20cfs additional water coming in from the Still River the total flow below that will be around 160cfs, putting us closer to a normal late August level (200+ cfs) this weekend. This flow bump is being done to help lower the water temps- predicted highs this weekend of 94 for Saturday, low of 72 Saturday night, 96 high for Sunday, and a low of 77 Sunday night- the heat wave breaks on Monday/Tuesday. A big kudos to the DEEP for taking this action, it will keep the entire river cooler, and especially help the downstream trout in Canton, Collinville, Unionville & below make it through this hot weather. I suspect the DEEP will drop their 50cfs contribution down to 25cfs sometime soon after the weekend, as they don’t have a very big “bank” of water to use.”

That was posted before this most recent weekend. The dam flow on Monday noon is 122cfs and the release temperature is under 50 degrees, which is fantastic. Hopefully we’ll get some rain today, which will raise the Still River (currently under 20cfs) and temporarily add some water to the system.

Please, sir, may I have some more?

Heat wave Farmington River flows, or: Stratification and proximity are your friends

The bad news is, we’re in a disgusting heat wave. The good news it, we have some very cold water coming out of Hogback. Let’s start with this graph:

As you can see, the current release temps range from a morning low of around 47 degrees, and spike at around 56 in the afternoon. This is fantastic, and very fish friendly. But wait: that doesn’t mean all is well in Collinsville. With flows on the low side — just barely into three-figures of CFS — and air temperatures in the 90s, it doesn’t take long for that water to warm up.

So: use common sense. The closer you are to Hogback, the colder the water will be. The water will be warmest from noon into evening. Carry a thermometer, and use it. If you start getting readings approaching 68 degrees, don’t fish. Head north, or fish when the sun’s not beating down on the water.

I thank you. The trout thank you. Now, let’s all do a rain dance…

Housy, we have a problem

It used to be that you’d show up at the Hous in the July with a fly rod and a Woolly Bugger and you couldn’t keep the smallmouth off your fly. You might try to keep count, but somewhere after the second dozen it all became a blur. If you were fishing early morning or late afternoon, with the sun tucked safely behind the hills, entire stretches of the river would light up. At dusk, the river was boiling.

Those days are over. At the very least, the Housatonic River smallmouth population has been dramatically reduced. At the worst, we have a crash.

The fishery has been in decline for several years now. Marks where I was catching dozens of bass five years ago began their slide around 2019, and now it’s to the point where I’m catching one…or two…or none. This isn’t a localized problem; I’ve been covering water from Falls Village, way above the TMA, down to Kent. Miles and miles of river. And the fish just ain’t there.

I’ve got some calls into the CT DEEP to discuss the situation, and I’ll let you know what I find out. In the meantime, save your fishing chips for other rivers.

This video is from 2018. That late afternoon, I took bass after bass after bass on a Gurgler…then at dusk, I really got good. I fished this mark last night and in 45 minutes all I could manage was two fish.

Farmington River Report 7/15/22: Low and slow, but plenty cold

I guided Mike and his son Deven yesterday from late morning to mid-afternoon. We had a gorgeous sunny summer day. Although flows are low — 90cfs from the dam plus 40 from the Still — the water was delightfully cold (I got 60 degrees mid-day at the upper end of the PTMA). That’s great news for both anglers and the fish. As always, I urge you to aware of water temps in low, summer flows. If you don’t have a stream thermometer, please get one.

We started off in the PTMA. Mike, who’s an intermediate level fly fisher, decided to tight line nymph. Deven, who’s just getting started, spent a little time with me working on his casting; I then rigged him up with a two-fly wet team and we had at it. The action was slow, but, yes, Deven stuck a trout in a swift little slot under some overhanging branches. Well done, young man! Meanwhile, Mike got into a fish downstream. The action was very slow, however, and we decided to move on. (Many thanks to the very courteous and chill anglers who so graciously shared water with us.)

Next stop was a riffle near the top of the PTMA. Sadly, goose eggs. On to a mark above the PTMA. Deven and I concentrated on swinging wets in some faster water, then on using an indicator in some slower, deeper water with a large drowned hopper and a nymph dropper. We blanked, but Mike, who was now dry fly fishing, stuck one more fish on a tiny caddis emerger before we called it a day. A pleasure, gentlemen, and you both did well under some very challenging conditions.

Thankfully, what’s coming out of the bottom of Hogback is cold and clear and very trout-friendly.

More “Surfcasting Around The Block II” news

I almost forgot — I’m be contributing another chapter to Dennis Zambrotta’s followup to “Surfcasting Around The Block.” It will be a brief chapter on what you need gear-wise to fly fish the island. Of course I’ll have my own opinions, but my goal, as always, is to help you get the most out of your fishing experience. I believe Dennis is hoping for a late fall publish date.

You can be sure I’ll mention a good pack, a shooting basket, and a floating line. And a headlamp that has a red light!